Robert L. Dean, Jr. is the author of The Aerialist Will not be Performing: ekphrastic poems and short fictions to the art of Steven Schroeder (Turning Plow Press, 2020), and At the Lake with Heisenberg (Spartan Press, 2018), and a forthcoming chapbook, Pulp, scheduled with Finishing Line Press for July 2022. A multiple Best of the Net nominee and a Pushcart nominee, his work has appeared in MockingHeart Review; October Hill Magazine; Flint Hills Review; I-70 Review; Chiron Review; The Ekphrastic Review; Sheila-Na-Gig online; Shot Glass; Illya’s Honey; Red River Review; KYSO Flash; MacQueen’s Quinterly; Thorny Locust; River City Poetry; Heartland! and the Wichita Broadside Project. Dean is a member of the Kansas Authors Club, and event coordinator for Epistrophy: An Afternoon of Poetry and Improvised Music, held annually in Wichita, Kansas. A native Kansan, Dean has been a professional musician, and worked at The Dallas Morning News. He lives in Augusta, Kansas.
You lace the vinyl uppers
of your double runners.
You are no longer young
but still you use beginner
blades. You hop-step to
pond’s edge. One tenuous foot
scrapes to a halt, ankle buckling
momentarily; the other pushes ahead.
You’ve skated this pond
ever since you can remember,
grooves trailing out behind you,
learning curve scars. Where is the
thin ice today? Under your mother’s
open casketed naked-sycamore-branch
fingers at the far shore? In the center where
spirals of your father’s elegantly arctic last words
taunt from the fickle mirror
which never reflects even a particle
of you? Oh, you will amount to something,
etch yourself into the story of your life, earn
a perfect score from the russet cattail skeletons
wagging elongated skulls in judgment, edging
their way into this self-portrait of the artist
as memory, even if it takes
the entirety of a never-ending fog of winter.
Geese honk as you wobble
too near the one open water hole. Like you,
they have chosen to not fly south, to
tough it out, to feed on the algae of bitterness.
Trembling with a sudden thrill
of recklessness, you about-face, push off
for the place where a horizon should be.